Humans animals, plants, insects, bacteria and viruses that may never have left one geographic area for another are now moving every day around the world. This movement can cause animal health syndromes that may not have been seen in some areas, or isolated cases may not be connected to other cases that have occurred elsewhere.
Lindsey Holstrom, DVM, uses an iPad to record health and surveillance data for the syndromic surveillance program. But that’s changing. A unique program is being piloted in the states of New Mexico and Texas that is equipping practitioners with tools for reporting a variety of animal health conditions and then relaying that information, analyzing it and reporting it in near real-time.
“Surveillance is one action used to help protect countries from unnecessary trade restrictions,” says Tom Hairgrove, DVM, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. ”The primary objective of surveillance is to ‘intentionally seek out as early as possible the target agent of disease cases or to identify the elevated risk in order to maximize prevention, treatment, and control, or the likelihood of eradication and to minimize the impacts of the disease’.”
In 2010, New Mexico Cooperative Extension approached Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service about the possibility of collaboration with their syndromic surveillance program. The National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD Center), Texas Center for Applied Technology (TCAT, a part of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station) , Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL), Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, USDA and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are currently working together to implement this pilot program in Texas and bring both states on board with a real-time reporting system. The program is a seedling effort, funded by the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate. The FAZD Center is a DHS Science and Technology Center of Excellence.
FAZD Center/TVMDL epidemiologist Lindsey Holmstrom, DVM, says that this surveillance pilot is non-disease-specific and is designed to detect anomalies in animal health that may warrant further investigation and specific diagnosis through the collection and analysis of specific body system associated clinical signs, or syndromes, in animal populations.